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Adobe Reader isn’t just unnecessary – it has a history of being an application you wouldn’t want on your system. From being extremely heavy and slow to having a long series of security flaws, Adobe Reader has never been a very good application for the average user. Adobe Reader’s speed and security have improved recently Adobe Reader X Adds Protected Mode for Windows Users, Android Gets New Features [News] Adobe Reader X Adds Protected Mode for Windows Users, Android Gets New Features [News] Read More , but they haven’t improved enough.

You probably don’t need Adobe Reader installed at all. In 2017, it is highly likely your browser or operating system (OS) already has built-in PDF support.

A few people will appreciate some of Adobe Reader’s lesser-used features, such as the ability to digitally sign documents. However, Adobe Reader arguably has too many features. Features like allowing PDFs to run JavaScript code have unsurprisingly led to security holes in the past, and it’s clear that most people would be better off with a faster, minimal, more secure PDF reader.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome has an integrated PDF viewer. It has been bundled with Google Chrome since 2010. It makes opening online PDFs extremely quick, loading directly in your browser. Unfortunately, Chrome’s PDF viewer doesn’t have many features. Or rather, it has basically none, unless rotating your PDFs is an absolute necessity.

However, it is fast. Additionally, Google Chrome is now the most popular browser around the globe, so there is a good chance you already have it installed. Google Chrome can function as your default local PDF viewer, too. Right-click your PDF, and select Properties. Select Change, followed by Google Chrome. Then select Apply.


Please note that this process is the same for Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or any other PDF viewer you’d like to use as default.


Like Google Chrome, Firefox has an integrated PDF viewer. In fact, Mozilla has bundled a PDF viewer since Firefox 19 – we’re now using Firefox 51. Who said Mozilla isn’t innovative?! Despite being eons ahead of Google Chrome, Firefox’s PDF viewer offers an equally minute number of features.

Firefox’s PDF viewer actually isn’t a browser plug-in at all. It’s written in JavaScript, the same scripting language used by web pages in your browser. This means that Firefox’s PDF viewer is fully sandboxed the same way web pages are, which gives you additional security benefits. When you use a plug-in like Adobe Acrobat, your browser’s built-in security doesn’t necessarily apply – you’re relying on the plug-in’s developers instead.


Microsoft didn’t introduce an integrated PDF reader until Windows 8. Reader is still available for Windows 10, but it is a Modern app. And there is another option. Let’s take a quick look at both.


Reader is no longer bundled with your Windows installation. However, it is fast, free, and can display two pages at a time. Reader opens your PDFs within your native Windows environment, without a browser. Other than that, Reader offers the same functionality as Chrome and Firefox.

Microsoft Edge

Windows 10’s native browser 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Switch to Microsoft Edge Yet 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Switch to Microsoft Edge Yet Is Microsoft Edge worth using while Chrome, Firefox, and Opera are still around? Is Edge good enough to be your primary browser? Read More also comes with an integrated PDF viewer. PDFs viewed while using Microsoft Edge will automatically open within the browser window, rather than opting for an external application (unless you have dictated otherwise).

In terms of features, Microsoft Edge toes the browser PDF viewer line and offers very little. Furthermore, the much-vaunted annotation feature How to Stay Productive With Microsoft Edge How to Stay Productive With Microsoft Edge Microsoft Edge some great productivity features. From built-in tools to time-saving extensions, here are just a few than can help you stay productive. Read More doesn’t work with PDFs, which is a little odd. However, it is a somewhat handy addition for those who have made Microsoft Edge their browser of choice.

Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android

We take for granted that Adobe Reader isn’t required on other OSs. Mac users have Preview 4 Best Free Mac Preview Alternatives for Reading PDFs 4 Best Free Mac Preview Alternatives for Reading PDFs If you're looking for a free Preview replacement for your PDF reading habit, here are the best free options out there. Read More . Linux distributions come bundled with Okular or Evince, 4 Best Linux PDF Viewers - And Adobe Reader Is Just One Of Them [Linux] 4 Best Linux PDF Viewers - And Adobe Reader Is Just One Of Them [Linux] When it comes to distributing forms and other information over the Internet, the file type of choice tends to be PDF. This file type is popular because it has decent compression rates, can prevent editing,... Read More depending on the environment.

Android has a built-in PDF viewer, as do iPhones and iPads. While Adobe Reader is available for all of these OSs, there isn’t really a need to download and use it. Furthermore, there are better options available for each OS.

Alternative PDF Readers for Windows

We have covered a great many PDF viewers PDF Reader vs. Browser: Which PDF Viewer Is Best for You? PDF Reader vs. Browser: Which PDF Viewer Is Best for You? A PDF reader is often one of the first tools people install on their new computer. It's not glamorous or sexy, but it's a vital tool in your productivity arsenal. Or is it? Read More and converters in recent years. Foxit Reader, Sumatra PDF, and Nitro Reader all offer well-featured free versions that should suffice for most users. They’re usually faster and more lightweight than Adobe Reader, too, losing some less-used features in favor of speed.

Alternative PDF readers have all-but closed the gap to Adobe, with many free options still offering once-premium features How To Use Gmail & Google Docs Instead of Adobe Reader How To Use Gmail & Google Docs Instead of Adobe Reader Read More , such as document signing. The majority of PDFs are just documents we can view — that was the original point of a PDF, after all. With that in mind, the majority of people will find the above solutions will offer a better experience.

As well as this, alternative PDF readers are also often more secure 6 Light Alternatives to Open Office & PDF Files 6 Light Alternatives to Open Office & PDF Files Don't clog your system down with superfluous bulk. For the occasional viewing of PDF and Office files, you can use compact apps and you might not need any additional software at all. Read More , as security vulnerabilities found in Adobe Reader generally don’t affect these other PDF readers. Adobe Reader’s additional features add up to a bigger target for attackers to exploit.

What’s Your View?

We’ve looked at exactly why you don’t really need Adobe Reader or Acrobat any more. Also, we’ve outlined why it is no longer necessary to introduce an extra plugin to your browser. As the majority of modern browsers now feature PDF support, the majority of people can eradicate that potential security vulnerability.

What’s your favorite PDF viewer? Do you stick with the default viewer for your operating system? Or do you prefer an alternative? Let us know your thoughts below!

Image Credit: ESB Professional via

Originally written by Chris Hoffman on 25 March, 2013.

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